Sunday, April 11, 2010

Chicken Shuffle

So the latest batch of chicks have been living in a box on my desk.

It makes it easy to take care of them and I can see them as I work. The problem is that their constant scratching and running around sends up a plume of dust that settles on everything. These chicks are two weeks old now so I decided to move them somewhere a little more appropriate.

This is my first coop. I built it to house two hens. The wooden part on the left is the actual coop and the part enclosed on the right is the run. Theoretically the chickens run around in the run during the day and then go into the coop to sleep. I say theoretically because the last batch of chicks, which are 6 weeks old now have other ideas. They only use the run. They sleep in a pile in the corner next to the food and water. For the first few days I would move them into the coop every night thinking that they would get the idea but they never did. Now during the day they run around in the yard if I'm home and then go into the run to sleep. This leaves the coop entirely unused so I thought I would move the new chicks in. They'd have twice as much space and it would keep them out of my hair.

That was my plan until one of the hens in the big coop went broody. This means that she wants to sit on the eggs rather than lay them. You can tell a hen has gone broody when they hunker down like this and by the mean look in their eye.

I love a broody hen. If they are willing to sit on the eggs it means that I don't have to incubate them and raise the chicks myself. The broody hen does it better and saves me all of the work. The problem is that a broody hen needs a secluded place to hatch out her eggs. I have four nest boxes for my ten hens and they all lay in the same one, the same one that this hen has claimed for her own. In this photo she is sitting on about 12 eggs laid by all the different hens in the coop. That's not so bad except that all of the other hens will continue to come in here to lay their eggs and the broody will scoop them up and try to hatch them. Eventually she would be sitting on a pile of eggs that all started incubating at different times which would be a recipe for disaster.

I decided to scrap my original plan to move the chicks into the little coop and move the broody in there instead. She would have a dark, private place to hatch and there wouldn't be other hens to lay more eggs. Again the chicken had other ideas. I made a little nest for her with some eggs to give her the right idea. I put her in the coop thinking that she would see the eggs and settle down on top of them. No deal. She shot out of the coop into the run and struck up a loud ruckus. She was totally agitated and mad and wanted nothing to do with her newly dubbed broody coop. I caught her again and shut her into the coop this time so she couldn't get out. She never settled down and went so far as to over turn the nest box and scatter the eggs. I guess the environment was just too foreign and she was nervous.

I finally gave up and moved her to one of the unused nest boxes in the big coop and that seemed to satisfy her. Here she is looking much more comfortable:

This isn't a perfect solution since the other hens might decide that they like this box now too. I could close this box so the others couldn't get in but the broody needs to get up once a day to eat drink and poop. I'll have to keep an eye on things and make adjustments later.

So I returned to my original plan to move the chicks into the little coop. They have a light for warmth and food and water. When the older chicks move up to the big coop in a week or two I'll open the door for these guys and let them out into the run.

So I was feeling that I had bought myself a little time until I went up to the big coop this morning and saw this:

This is a different hen. I think she's broody.
: /

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